Tuesday, September 11, 2018

New Chef's Vegan Table at Balducci

Balducci restaurant in the V & A Waterfront now has a Vegan menu, in addition to their normal menu, and we were invited to sample some of it at a media event last week. It seems that there is a growing demand for vegetarian and vegan food in the Cape and, when they introduced it after many requests, they were very encouraged by the uptake. We are not vegetarian or vegan, but we have friends who are and we do enjoy eating this sort of food if it is well made. We are a little anti vegan food masquerading as meat. Be true to yourself, if you crave it, eat it. We met three of the owners of the Slick restaurant group, who joined us for dinner. They also own Balducci Asian Noodle and Sushi Bar, Balthazar, Gibson’s and Walters Grill
We began with three juices: L to R: a very refreshing and satisfying Carrot, ginger, apple and lemon juice; a Sherbet lemonade which has zingy pineapple, apple, lemon, and hint of ginger with a lovely fresh mint finish; and an earthy, raw Beetroot with apple, mint, lemon and cucumber
Fresh bread on the table with a vegan spread - which tasted just like oily margarine. We also found good olive oil and balsamic on the table which always goes well with bread
Slick Group Beverage Manager Andr√© Naude pours the first wine. We were served the Elgin Ridge 282 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, which is certified organic and biodynamic. It’s a classic, crisp Elgin cool country Sauvignon Blanc, some sesame and herbal notes on the nose, with pineapple and lean limes on the palate, with a long finish
The menu for the evening. You can see the full Vegan menu on line and this is a selection from it. https://balduccis.co.za/balducci-vegan-menu/
Their philosophy
This was on our table and we liked the taste, we thought it was Dukkah. It actually is vegan "parmesan cheese" - non dairy of course.
We had a long table with many guests, some media, others committed vegans and some were both
Our first course, a salad, came in a jar
Beautiful roses and bottles of water
The jar was emptied. It contained a selection of tomato, cucumber, avocado,
peppers, olives, sprouts carrots and leaves. It came with a dressing
The second starter was a rather good falafel with a creamy Tahini
- lots of texture, good flavours. No pita bread was served
We found that the "parmesan" went well with this,
but then we did think it was Dukkah
The third starter was a Trader Joe Pizza, with vegan, dairy free "cheese",
which we believe is made from nuts, and topped with mixed peppers,
raw red onion and a vegan pesto. The base was thin and crisp
It was interesting and enjoyable
The red wine was a 2016 Estate Pinot Noir from Paul Cluver, also an Elgin Wine. Wines approved for drinking by vegans must contain no animal products, nor be fined by egg white or any other non approved addition such as isinglass. Neither of the wines we had was made with the use of any animal products. The Paul Cluver Pinot Noir is deservedly a four and a half star John Platter wine; it has soft red fruit, a good support from delicate use of oak and lovely long flavours of raspberries and other red berries. It is elegant and built to last
The first main course was a penne pasta with smoked mushrooms, marinated tofu and a rather thick cashew nut 'cream' sauce. We found it a bit heavy, but the vegan next to Lynne absolutely loved it and had two or three helpings
A Vegan Red Thai Curry was served next, nice and hot and spicy, it had tofu, bamboo shoots, cauliflower, mushrooms and broccoli and was served with basmati rice. Probably the best dish of the evening. John was not able to eat both of these main courses because of the mushrooms, so the restaurant specially made him some of the pasta without mushrooms
The third main was Smoky Amaranth Black bean sliders. This needs a bit of work, as we found the rather thin bean burgers very dry and it needed a sauce or binder of some sort. It was dressed with pickled cucumber, and lettuce slaw. Bean burgers, we think, need more texture. But we must point out that many of the vegans present liked these. The supporting dish of crisp, sweet potato fries was a winner, loved by all those who appreciate good sweet potatoes.
Two desserts. Described as a Chia Parfait Glass, the coconut milk "yoghurt" had, for us, a rather sour fermented taste - more like a Kefir than a creamy yogurt - fresh strawberries and was sprinkled with chia seeds. Again, our tastes differ; the vegan next to Lynne absolutely loved this dish. The fermentation did rather continue overnight for both of us. The second dessert, the tiny heart of "Cheesecake", made from more cashew nuts and blueberries, had good flavour and was dense and rich. It was on a seed base, rather like the Banting biscuits. Vegans use a lot of nuts and seeds. An interesting meal. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you definitely need to go and sample these dishes. Do let us know how you found it

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